Arriving in Clyde River during a blizzard was never part of what we envisaged. With Chris from the RCMP shouting over the noise of the wind that he had a load of our stuff and we could meet him once we checked out the local hotel.
Bundling into the warm hotel was a treat as new and exciting smells wafted past us from the kitchen. Emily who runs it was incredibly kind to us despite our dishevelled appearance and biohazard smell having not washed for over a month. The price was astronomical compared to our budget. The hotel is in a beautiful spot with views over the frozen bay and mountains behind. Emily pointed out my mum had phoned trying to sort out some supplies that she was sending up including some whiskey. It turns out Clyde is also a community within Nunavut with a by-law requiring a permit to buy alcohol as well as the need to ship it up once it has gone through a committee. So it’s safe to so say we didn’t manage to get any.
Trudging back to the RCMP station in the wind and snow wasn’t pleasant but after explaining our predicament to Chris he kindly let us stay in the police station as well as the use of our first hot shower since we left Qik. In a semi zombie state we ate, showered and crashed to sleep feeling almost normal. It certainly felt strange waking up in a heated building and simply turning on a tap rather than having to melt snow for water. With an aim of getting out within 4 days or so and a long list of things to do the race was on. The most major of our tasks being to sort out our depot drops for the onward leg. Like in Qik there were some huge maps on the wall of the detachment which we could survey every time we passed during our stay. It served as a very useful reminder of what we still had to cover as well as being able to see how far we had come… whilst also planning our onward journey with it. It was fascinating seeing all the names of the mountains and fjords. Names like Ayr pass, Kintyre point, Patterson fjord, Royal Society fjord, Cape Carmichael and many others with British and particularly Scottish references. Not surprisingly with the likes of John Rae doing the lions share of the exploring up here. We met up with Chris and his partner Shaun at the station in the morning who were full of ideas on who we could speak to. It was a stroke of luck that the first in the list was a guy called Jake who not only has travelled large sections of the area by dog sled but also knew Sarah and Boomer who are currently dog sledding round Baffin and were due in any day. Meeting up with him as well as a few locals, including an elder, we had a pretty experienced bunch examining our map and pointing out areas of interest. Time certainly flew by and soon are map was annotated up with notes on where bears, bad ice, potential routes and an idea of where base jumpers go. The last being more out of interest rather than something that either of us wish to do. Back at the RCMP station we re-examined the huge map of the area, we were in luck potentially for using some of the huts for depots with them being nicely spread out. We were also introduced to a possible skidoo driver who was going to meet us the following day with prices for the trip.
Wandering about Clyde in the sunshine was certainly a different experience to the previous day of blizzards. Turns out it is renowned by local pilots for the worst weather in the region and it is normal for these bad spells to roll through every few days (as we soon found out). With a rather long to do list and mixed emotions…relaxing vs getting back on the trail, the following days were a whirlwind of activity. A large amount of time was spent counting out cakes, flapjacks, beef jerky, chocolate and maxinutrition trying our hardest not to dip into our limited supplies. As I tucked into a packet of chocolate which on the ice could be gobbled up in a few seconds made me pause as I felt slightly ill with all the sweet items we had eaten.
Sorting out the depots was proving challenging. Most of the locals don’t tend to do the big trips between Clyde and pond till April once the ice has had time to flatten, the days are longer and the temperatures are warmer. Due to this the current ice conditions and the fact that the caribou/ polar bear hunts had been postponed meant that people weren’t travelling north particularly as far as we were hoping them to go. We were aiming for two depots splitting the journey into almost perfect thirds. After much negotiating, one driver fell through and we had to settle on plan b. This was for a single drop slightly closer than we anticipated but still far enough away that the second start although heavy would be a feasible weight.
We also adapted the plan to take in Sam fjord particular after Jake and his wife Sheri showed us some incredible pictures of the region. People travel up here just to visit them and in occasions BASE jump off the giant peaks! In between all this we were introduced a delicious local snack at the hotel called bannocks I think they were called. These moreish deep fried bread snacks were exactly what was required by a couple of lads who were eating pretty much everything in sight. Along with all of this was a busy social calendar with dinner kindly put on by Shaun and his wife for a fantastic spicy vegetable curry followed on the next night by Chris and his wife for another treat of pasta followed by cherry pie. It was incredibly kind of them welcoming us into their family homes, the company and a different diet to our normal rehydrated meals. We have eaten all the varieties enough times to work out the pecking order. We did unfortunately miss the local community feast partly whilst trying to sort jobs which inevitably take longer than expected as well as a blizzard forecast speeding up proceedings for a much earlier finish than anticipated. Mainly due to us finally sorting out our depot drops as well as fixing up our skis which we spent a happy few hours drilling and riveting our kicker skins (the bit that provides us with traction under our feet) onto the ski as the stitching on the straps holding them in place had disintegrated.
With the weekend approaching which tends to be the stations busy period we had to find a new place to crash. Walking about town whilst a blizzard was happening reminded us of our arrival, it was pretty awful weather and trying to cross town took far longer with you not being able to see where you were exactly. We were kindly taken in by the nurses of Clyde. Gary did a sterling job of feeding us up on caribou stew and ice cream. A real treat whilst discussing a whole variety of trips we had all done as well as climbing and skiing. Being able to sleep on the sofa was the closest to a bed that we had had in over 2 months both crashing out in minutes. With the blizzard still on our friends Sarah and Boomer who are dog sledding were unable to set off. Despite us expecting them to be chilling it was a hive of activity as they helped their hosts Jake and Shari set his sled up who had decided to head north with them partly in preparation for a dog sled race going from pond inlet to arctic bay some 400 miles roughly. We joined them for Shari’s amazing home-made pizza making me reminisce about the ones i make at home before heading back to Gary’s for evening super of caribou stew, more ice cream and catching up on some climbing/ BASE jumping films he had. A pretty awesome way to chill before heading off the next day. The day had come and we were finally off. After 5 full days it was only marginally longer than we had expected.
Saying final good byes in many ways felt strange as within such a short space of time many of the people had shown a tremendous amount of hospitality to strangers who had walked off the ice. Levi the outfitter rolled up with the two skidoos transporting us and our gear first to our drop then the food to the depot. It was a huge amount of stuff. The dogs unfortunately had to come in the same box as myself and Jamie. Having seen the mess they had created in the last box we had been tactical with our feeding times in the hope of minimise a repeat. With bin bags covering our legs, two nervous looking dogs and even more nervous lads we headed off. The start was thankfully slow as the skidoos meanders there way out onto the sea ice. The dogs unable to sit still kept trying to scramble out of the box over the top of us. As they began to calm down we started to pick up speed causing us all to gain air time over the bumps. It was funny initially until the combination of factors caused Colin to poo in the corner. We now had a ride smelling of engine fumes, dog poo and dog breath. In a confined space this was pretty desperate. On top of that Colin was also drooling constantly like a tap. Tala looked like she had been in the shower while Jamie and I were trying desperately to use the bin bags to prevent us from getting shit or drool on us. Fortunately as this point the dogs began getting the idea that sitting or lying down was more comfortable as we all settled into the three hour ride with the occasional spells of air time. It turned out myself and Jamie could almost find a position to sleep in until we hit a bump as our heads were resting on the ledge we would drop onto. Pulling up for the stop, we exited to beautiful views of the valley ahead with wind causing some of the snow to spin in mini twisters.
It was a pretty special way of starting the second leg.